If the Dodgers were predicted to be the best team in the National League West, the Padres were targeted to be the most interesting. A little more than two weeks into the season, they’re proving to be just that.
While much of the country is trying to figure out what’s wrong with the Red Sox, or which Yankees players are nearing a return from the injured list, or when the Cubs' bats are going to wake up, the Padres have had a spectacular start and, so far, are one of the baseball’s most fun teams to watch.
They made headlines prior to Opening Day by putting Fernando Tatis Jr. on the roster, forfeiting an extra year of club control that would affect them years down the road. The decision has paid off. The 20-year-old has a .993 OPS and leads the team with five homers, becoming just the fifth player age 20 or young to homer five times in his first 16 games.
Tatis Jr. is not the only reason the 11-6 Padres are off to their best start in nine years (hello, Manny Machado). But so far, it’s been fun to see the early returns of a years-long rebuilding process in San Diego. Whether they can overtake the powerful Dodgers is to be determined, but there’s no question a new team has entered the conversation in the NL West.
Biggest jump: The Mariners jumped seven, from No. 16 to No. 9. It’s likely that no one -- not even the Mariners -- saw this hot start coming. There’s a long way to the end, and as the Mariners taught us last year, early returns don’t necessarily translate to October. And it’s also worth noting they were cooled by the Astros, who swept them over the weekend. But at 13-5, Seattle has one of the best winning percentages in baseball, and it’s doing it with several players who weren’t with the team last year.
Biggest drop: The Red Sox dropped six spots, from No. 7 to No. 13. This is probably a good time to remind everyone that the 2005 Astros started the year 15-30, had two road wins through the first week in May and ended up winning the pennant. Good teams can overcome bad starts. But there’s no question -- this is a really, really bad start for the World Champs. They beat the Orioles on Sunday, avoiding their 11th loss of the season in their 16th game. For context, last year, Boston didn’t lose its 11th game until game No. 37.
Power Rankings Top 5:
1) Astros (3 last week)
This one isn’t really debatable. After opening the season 2-5. the Astros have won nine in a row, completing sweeps over the A’s, Yankees and Mariners. The conversation essentially starts and ends with Jose Altuve, who homered in five consecutive games and drove in a run in six straight, a streak that ended Sunday. During those six games, Altuve batted .480 (12-for-25) with six homers and 11 RBIs.
2) Rays (5)
Only the Astros could have prevented the Rays from taking over the top spot. Tampa Bay has the second-most wins in baseball and the best winning percentage with a 12-4 record. They won seven of nine during their cross-country road trip with the Giants, White Sox and Blue Jays. Individually, leadoff man Austin Meadows has 12 hits in 22 at-bats with two doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs in his past five games.
3) Dodgers (1)
This is probably a good time to remind everyone that our Power Rankings voting body considers both short-term performances and long-term projections when it ranks the teams week-to-week. We are aware the Dodgers had a forgettable week. But they did snap a six-game losing streak on Sunday with a 7-1 win over the Brewers, and they received a nifty eight-inning, 88-pitch outing from Ross Stripling.
4) Phillies (2)
The Phillies got back on track on Sunday after their pitching was pummeled in three of four games -- all losses. Prior to Vince Velasquez holding the Marlins to one over six innings in Sunday’s win, Phils pitchers allowed 36 runs (33 earned) over those four games. Another positive from Sunday? Seven relievers accounted for eight scoreless innings in the 14-inning win.
5) Brewers (4)
The Brewers cooled a bit after making a dent early against intradivision opponents, when they won series over the Cardinals, Reds and Cubs. Their SoCal trip started on a down note with a sweep by the Angels, but they recovered to take two of three against the Dodgers. The Brewers so far have stayed above the fray in an NL Central division predicted to be relatively mediocre this season. Individually, Yasmani Grandal has had a nice start to the year, batting .514 (18-for-35) with 10 runs scored over his last 10 games.
The rest of the Top 20:
- Nationals (10 last week)
- Cardinals (9)
- Mets (8)
- Mariners (16)
- Yankees (6)
- A’s (11)
- Braves (15)
- Red Sox (7)
- Padres (18)
- Twins (12)
- Cubs (13)
- Indians (14)
- Pirates (20)
- Angels (21)
- Rockies (17)